LEAD Task Force update

Word has leaked through various channels that the much talked about and largely maligned LEAD Task Force will issue a report in early April. On the surface this would be encouraging although as my colleague Katy Burnett likes to point out, even early April gives the Republicans a five month head start for the 2016 cycle. After a few weeks of digging concerning this early April date and the release of recommendations a few items have percolated to the surface. Each is interesting in its own regard and we will attempt to break them out and explain them here so activist Democrats across the state who feel disaffected from the process due to the lack of official information can process what we have learned.

Task Force Meetings

The task force hasn’t met regularly and has yet to sign off as a whole on a report. Yet TFS has learned through multiple state legislators that informal briefings have already taken place with members of the State House and State Senate on the possible recommendations. This indicates that many of the suggestions that will be made in the report have been determined behind closed doors either by party insiders or staff/consultants. For some, this top-down approach is preferable to anarchy that comes from the “wild west” of endless committee meetings and the agenda-driven preferences of some state committee members as well as those who have been appointed to the LEAD Task Force. Yet, for others this will not sit very well. Following another electoral defeat in November it will be argued by the critics, the Democrats in power continue to operate in ways that seek a maintenance of power over a more open dialogue.

Rules Reform

Keeping small counties on side for the changes that come ostensibly from the task force but probably from party insiders has motivated the continued promotion of “one county, one vote.” In fact we have learned some of the push for a complete overhaul of the rules have actually come from urban counties and from factions out of power in some places but close to the state party leadership. While it appears the momentum for “one county one vote”  has fizzled in the past week or so, the leadership of the party we are told would still like to create a mechanism that strips the power of some entrenched State Committee people. From our vantage point this is a good thing, but a concern that has continued to dominate discussions we have had is the desire of some in the party to continue to control the election for FDP Chair with some that has hand chosen. On this score, the LEAD Task Force is expected to recommend that the FDP Chair not have to be a seated member of a DEC or a member of the State Committee in advance of election. I will be perfectly honest in saying I am not sure this is legal under state statutes (we will investigate further) but it is of concern regardless of legality – while it would good to open the chairs election up to active Democrats across the state, it also might be detrimental in that a chair who is an elected official with his/her own agenda might take the reigns or worse yet someone with no experience are understanding of Florida’s past and the party’s history makes a quixotic campaign and wins. This is why rules reform is difficult – we think most objective people would agree the rules of the Florida Democratic Party need to be reformed, but the concern that keeps being expressed to us is that these rules changes may be agenda driven. with specific goals or even individuals in mind as the beneficiaries.

Candidate Recommendations

The discussion of the need to run more “moderate” candidates and have more “moderate” messaging is not only getting old – but is born directly out of lazy stereotypes and a lack of connection between party elites and grassroots activists. Moderates do have a role in the Democratic Party – however the party needs to be a values based entity which promotes progressive ideas which include social and economic justice. We have consistently heard through our channels that the party would like to see more “business friendly” candidates seek office, and have in subtle ways blamed progressives for the poor electoral performance of the party. I can state from personal experience this same rhetoric was shouted by the party after 2000 (including a renewed emphasis on counties between the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers) and we were rewarded with an electoral disaster in 2002. At the time, I bought into some of this logic, being young somewhat brashly naive and a party hack for lack of a better term. But 2002 taught me it was all nonsensical and since that time Florida has shifted further left in terms of demographics and attitudes.

The whole moderate discussion is illogical considering when progressives get excited and activated in mass the Democrats achieve greater success in Florida as we saw in 2000, 2008 and 2012. The voters are also being misunderstood in many ways by elites in the Democratic Party.

Even if voters describe themselves as “moderates,” in public surveys, chances are quite high they vote based on one or two issues where they are either clearly conservative or clearly liberal. This is particularly true in midterm elections, the elections where Florida Democrats have been wiped out time and again. Lower voter turnout in midterm elections among Democrats from my vantage point can be traced largely if not wholly to a party brand that does not identify with the values it campaigns on during Presidential years. The party’s messaging also has consistently failed to mirror the voices of leading progressive groups. But these groups have had very little input in the party’s messaging and direction.

Insider Baseball

Scores of Democrats across the state have complained to us about the lack of access to information about the LEAD Task Force or any other changes the Florida Democratic Party are making post 2014 electoral debacle. To this point, TFS’ writers have taken a different tact – Katy Burnett has been outspoken in articulating her view that the party should be doing much more. I, on the other hand have defended the party stating the process is complicated and information will flow out in time. However, at this stage of the game it is difficult to continue defending the lack of access to information or the processes around the formulation of any task force report. While we might find ourselves pleasantly surprised in a few weeks, chances are this might prove to be yet another exercise in futility; paper pushing after yet another electoral wipeout. The critics have been relentless in demanding more transparency and information from Florida’s Democrats and more honesty about the status of consultants and party officials. While I feel some of the demands and criticism have been over-the-top and many have come from what we would describe as “permanent malcontents” the reality has become more and more obvious to me – despite the best efforts of Chairwoman Allison Tant to make at least cosmetic reforms to the way the party operates, other invisible and permanent hands generally based in and around the capital city make the final decisions.

Much of the discussion about “reform” and “positive changes” in the party amounts to insider baseball being played by party operatives and consultants who are simply trying to save each others skin after another terrible election cycle. The laziness of the narrative about promoting “moderate” candidates and “rules reform” reinforces this notion.

Conclusion

I believe Chairwoman Allison Tant deserves credit for trying to make changes. She is after all the first chair of the party since Charlie Whitehead who didn’t have higher office in mind while running the party. But the processes and inertia around the party just never seem to change. Most party actions are either simply window dressing or designed with a certain outcome in mind. The LEAD Task Force we had hoped would be different – perhaps it still will be different although the early returns give us pause.

 

24 comments

  1. Bruce Borkosky · · Reply

    peculated?

  2. Fla Dem · · Reply

    The only real agenda here is typified by this writer who has abused his power. This blog has a lot of readers and instead of being a constructive supporter of the Florida Democratic Party he has his own agenda. Unfortunately , he is the milder of the two dominant writers at this site. The other one is even worse. She is clueless.

    All of this having been said the description of the committees work is fairly accurate. The writer himself states it is better to make decisions without a committee and the wild wild West as he calls it and to have the people who really know the staff and those who have skin in the game come up with ideas for the future.

    The malcontents as he again describes them are what is driving a rat infested the ship. They must be stamped out and eradicated. Rules reforms helps to do that. Reforming the rules will make this party much more competitive on the grassroots level.

    1. Reforming the rules will make this party much more competitive on the grassroots level.

      Explain this please. Thank you.

  3. old guy on the bench · · Reply

    The party county chairs will be holding its annual meeting next month in Lake Mary. Any bets that the LEADS report will be topic A. There will be meetings of several caucuses at that meeting including the Black, Veterans, Hispanic and Disability groups. To this old man’s eye there is a huge hole in the line up meetings scheduled by the state party. Individuals over age 65 – Seniors – represent 18.7 % of the population of our state. It is projected that this group will lead the state’s population growth. Today seniors account for over 26% of the registered voters in Pinellas County and over 40% in Sarasota county. We must find effective ways to understand the unique needs this rapidly growing sector of our state’s population. Our failure to understanding those needs will relegate us to the sidelines, exactly where we are today.

    1. For some reason senior issues keep being ignored as a statewide messaging tool. No clue why.

  4. get over it · · Reply

    This is a really good article well-written and well thought out and argued. Problem is Kartik this is a Friday afternoon news dump You figure by releasing it later you would offend the party less.

    I don’t know why you didn’t publish this earlier in the week or wait till Sunday. While the information here is all excellent the timing is about as bad as it can get. I know website analytics enough to know you probably get less hits on Fridays and Saturdays and you do the rest of the week.

    So by the time the readers are reengaged on Sunday or Monday this article to drop way down the page. That might’ve been your plan. I hope not. Take a shot at the party but assure them that less people will see it then normal if you would publish it another time. Maybe you made a deal with them?

  5. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Kartik you are a smart guy with tons of serious cred & experience with this party and we disagree on some of this especially ideology. But you are right about the agenda. Simple question. Why did you think this would be any different? It’s the same s*** different year. You should have known that!!!!. This Chair is WORSE than her predecessors. She has no history as an activist and almost zero political skills. Marrying well on a second try shouldn’t be the job qualification to be party chair.

  6. The future · · Reply

    The moderate thing is so annoying. The party hacks will be out in full force backing this report which I am sure will say nothing.

  7. Democrat · · Reply

    You know the bottom line is the Florida Democratic Party is meaningless. Candidates and advocacy groups mean more since the FDP & local DECs are worthless.

  8. Kartik I love you but you are great activist and a great strategist why do you waste your time with Florida Democratic Party? You know how worthless they are yet you continued to try and hold these carrots out like there is actually hope for them! Hopefully now you know!

    I also have to agree with the above comment that this seems like a new stumped by you. You have to say what you have to say because it’s the truth but you figure if you bury it on a Friday afternoon it will hurt the party and your relationship with them less than if you’re down this time when more people on the Internet. I certainly hope you consider bumping this article back to the top of the page on Sunday. Otherwise it might be theorized that you are doing a little bit of political gamesmanship yourself here..

    1. So let me address this…the article did get bumped to Friday afternoon because of my other (paying) writing commitments. This happened because those publications don’t accept stories after 11 am Friday until late Saturday night, so I did end up pushing this to a Friday afternoon. That does not mean I am protecting anyone or made a deal, etc…it is just what happened.

  9. Really good article Kartik. I have to concur with the timing being odd and I certainly hope this is just because you got the information and as it came in you wrote the story and published it. I would certainly hope you didn’t sit on this for a couple days to protect your relationship with the party.

  10. It's 2015 not 2006 · · Reply

    Good article

    Spot on as always!

  11. News dump? Kartik doesn’t have to write anything on this topic because it’s his BLOG, not a news site. Why on earth would he dump a story on Friday to keep people from reading it?

  12. The party sucks! They are pushing Murphy who voted with the Rs on major bills, shady as fuck and has a COS who should be locked up. Eric grand jury can request you more than once!

  13. The party is a joke. Losers who have no sense of remorse or accountability. All they do is lose elections then make excuses so they can keep their jobs and positions. I think it is criminal how pathetic they are and how badly they do.

    At some point progressives just have to move on from the party. We are a movement not a political party. The time probably has come.

  14. This was predicatable. The party was doing nothing but covering and getting people off their back. Good reporting and thanks for this.

  15. Democratic Operative · · Reply

    Kartik,

    If you really believe Allison Tant is competent and that the party has some hope you are not the man I thought you were. They are planning succession and keeping it so that the Tallahassee crowd can control everything. Information is their enemy. Transparency is their enemy. They depend on low information people who want to be “in” with the establishment crowd to hold power. As you said here they want the small counties on their side and have some key allies in urban counties including elected officials that empower them. But they have made the party irrelevant in most places. The actions since election day have made themselves even more marginal and meaningless.

  16. Fla Democrat · · Reply

    The captains of the Titanic have been commissioned to captain the ship yet again!

    WTF did you expect?

  17. Labeling is not productive. I believe as Haley Barbour said, “Politics is about addition and multiplication. Purity is about subtraction and division.”

    That said, the Party needs an overhaul which can only happen if we change the way we select party leaders and pick campaign vendors who win.

  18. The Observer · · Reply

    Kartik, has it ever crossed your mind that this group and it’s report are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The Chair was pushed down our throats by insiders who do not want change at the top. A committee is put together, a report is put out at some point in time, and when we loose the next cycle she gets to say “at least I tried something” without really doing anything and maintain the current line of failures.

    1. It has actually…a lot of folks believe that is the case.

  19. Andy Behrman · · Reply

    Kartik, don’t you love people who are willing to post an opinion as long as it can’t be reflected as their own? I don’t see this report being anything but more of the same. But we can sure be hopeful it will have value.

  20. I’m not sure how much more “moderate” our last two gubernatorial candidates could have been. One was a “too-big-to-fail” banker and the former head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce (essentially the money wing of the Republican Party), and the second one was literally the prior Republican governor of the state. For the love of all that is holy, how could you move any further to the right and even bother putting a “D” by your name on the ballot? So, clearly, that is not the answer. When half of your team isn’t bothering to show up, the first answer shouldn’t be, “hey, let’s see if we can get some of the opposing team’s members to play for us.” Stop letting Republicans get away with labeling us as “moderate” or “liberal” and just focus on what this party is supposed to stand for and run candidates that actually motivate voters. Simple formula.

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